At Coursera, we think it’s time to change the conversation about the skills gap. We’re looking for fresh ways to encourage employers, universities, individuals and government institutions to collaborate in meeting the rapidly evolving needs of the modern economy.
We’ve been impressed by the work the U.S. Chamber is doing to help employers rethink the skills gap. We recently spoke with Jason Tyszko, senior director of policy at the Chamber, about its Talent Pipeline Management program. The program launched in 2014 to help employers play an expanded leadership role in training and development, develop new industry partnerships and “start solving the skills gap problem for themselves,” Tyszko says.
Here are three areas he identified as big opportunities for employers.
Getting More Specific About Job Requirements
One of the areas that most needed a makeover was job requirements, Tyszko says. The program pushes employers to get specific and granular about every skill someone needs to land the job. For example, instead of listing “soft skills” as a top priority, employers learn how to define exactly what competencies workers really need. “We want to give employers a process to communicate which skills are the highest priority. What does someone need to demonstrate — skills and certificates, security clearances, etc. — before they start onboarding?”
Then, the Chamber encourages employers to share competency and credentialing requirements with other employers. Much like the business community created ISO standards for purchasing, creating competency requirements for talent could create helpful industry-wide credentialing standards. Tyszko explains that a lot of labor market information is gathered through job boards and government data, but if employers share their actual job requirements and qualifications, students and workers can start to see more transparent career pathways.
Applying Lessons From Other Aspects of Business
To create a pathway to better hiring and competencies, program leaders at the Chamber took an approach straight out of a business playbook — they applied lessons companies have learned in supply chain management to the talent pipeline. “Employers hadn’t applied the concepts of supply chain management to human capital,” Tyszko says. “Employees aren’t widgets, but it is an interesting way to look at how you create performance-based relationships.”
The program started with training — for employers. The Chamber developed an academy to teach business leaders how to approach human capital with this model. Lessons include identifying critical skill gaps, choosing talent focus areas and forecasting demand for those positions.
Once they understand their talent needs, leaders learn how to “back-map” their talent flows to understand where they’ve sourced star talent in the past, Tyszko says. “After all the due diligence, you can start making decisions about preferred talent providers,” he says, meaning the academic programs and schools that are the most reliable sources of excellent workers.
Building Creative Partnerships
The academy teaches employers how to build partnerships with universities, community colleges, K-12 schools and other employers. “If we want to compete on talent, we need to be sophisticated about partnerships,” Tyszko says. “It’s not just about being a good corporate citizen. It’s do or die.”
The Chamber’s initiative isn’t just about entry level workers. Tyszko says the Talent Pipeline Management approach also applies to re-skilling and up-skilling current employees, making sure all employees stay ahead of the curve. The Chamber helps employers work with training and education vendors and define a pathway for current employees to get promoted into their “destination job” at the organization.
One of his favorite examples of an employer that’s adept at reverse-engineering its talent supply chain: Boeing. Tyszko says leaders at Boeing looked at their most successful engineering employees and worked backward to understand their talent supply chain. Leaders realized that its top engineers all came from four university programs, so Boeing developed more intentional partnerships with those universities. Now Boeing gives students broader access to its employees and facilities, preparing college students for the work they’ll experience after graduation.
Looking ahead, Tyszko says “we’re just scratching the surface” of how employers will rethink talent pathways and employee development. He says the Chamber is “looking forward to a new age of employer leadership” in which employers send “more sophisticated signals” to workers about what’s required to succeed.
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